THE gremlins just keep coming for Daniel Ricciardo.
After securing pole position for the Mexican Grand Prix, he had an awful start, with his Red Bull RB14 bogging down while teammate Max Verstappen disappeared into the distance – and Lewis Hamilton shot past.
He recovered to reclaim second spot, but was forced to retire just eight laps from the finish.
He was holding off a charge by Ferrari’s Sebastien Vettel until lap 62 of the 71 lap race on the high-altitude Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit when white smoke emanated from the back of the car. And that was that.
Team principal Christian Horner summed it up as: “Absolutely gutting.”
It was due to a hydraulic, rather than engine failure, and followed the electrical problem that stopped him in the US Grand Prix.
Up front, Verstappen had a great drive, one of his best, and remained unchallenged. He and Ricciardo pulled away from Hamilton’s Mercedes while Vettel was closing in.
The expected battle between Hamilton and Vettel didn’t happen.
There was some superb wheel-to wheel action between the two before Vettel edged past Hamilton on to take second.
The Briton only needed to finish in the top seven to win the 2018 Driver’s Championship, but had a pretty torrid time. But it didn’t matter.
He eventually finished fourth, behind the Ferraris of both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to claim the title.
Further back, Fernando Alonso had to retire his McLaren after a bizarre malady: contact between the Force India of Esteban Ocon and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg sent a shard of the Force India’s front wing under the McLaren and brought the Spaniard’s race to a halt.
It was a miserable day for Sergio Perez too.
The charismatic Mexican had the misfortune of retiring at his home race, despite having only three DNF the previous 68 Grands Prix.
The Haas cars had their worst performance of the year with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean finishing 15th and 16th, and probably ending their hopes of overtaking Renault’s fourth place in the constructors’ championship.
Max Verstappen in action and on the podium
Valtteri Bottas finished fifth for Mercedes, and Nico Hulkenberg put the Renault in sixth place. Teammate Carlos Sainz retired at the halfway stage.
Seventh was Charles Le Clerc for Alfa-Sauber and Stoffel Vandoorne had his best performances of the year to finish eighth for McLaren.
Ninth and 10th were Marcus Ericsson (Alfa-Sauber) and Pierre Gasly in the Toto Rosso.
Daniel Ricciardo was understandably distressed.
“I saw pass fail on my dash which I guess was some sort of hydraulic failure and I was forced to retire immediately,” he said.
“This sucks and it is at a point where I feel why should I even come on a Sunday. There hasn’t been a clean weekend for so long due to many different reasons and it’s breaking my heart.
“Deflated comes to mind but this feels deeper than that.
“I put it (the car) on pole but lost out at the start. It just doesn’t seem to happen for me on a Sunday, even if I have a good Saturday.
“I don’t want to end it like this and I know nobody is doing it deliberately but I just can’t seem to catch a break and a double podium for the team today was exactly what we all wanted.
“I’m a very positive guy and I will probably still wake up tomorrow with some sort of positivity.”
Winner Verstappen: “The start was the key. I didn’t sleep very well last night, but was determined today. It was a shame to lose Daniel, we could have had two cars on the podium. Celebrations tonight? I’m going home, happy about that.”
Only two grands prix remain before the end of the season, Brazil on November 11 and Abu Dhabi on November 25.
Maybe one, or both, will be kinder to the unfortunate Daniel Ricciardo before he moves on to Renault in 2019.